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How much charcoal should I be using?

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I recently acquired a Large Big Green Egg.  I have only cooked on it twice and so far I love it.  The first time I cooked pizzas, and on a recommendation, I used very little charcoal and could not get the grill over 350 degrees.  The second time I also cooked pizzas and I doubled the charcoal and got it to 525 degrees and no more.  On both cooks I had the bottom vent wide open and the daisy wheel wide open.  My question is this - should I just dump in a ton of charcoal and try to control the heat by adjusting the vents or is there a magical amount of charcoal that I just have not discovered yet.  Also, I am using a new bag of BGE brand lump charcoal.  

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I recently acquired a Large Big Green Egg.  I have only cooked on it twice and so far I love it.  The first time I cooked pizzas, and on a recommendation, I used very little charcoal and could not get the grill over 350 degrees.  The second time I also cooked pizzas and I doubled the charcoal and got it to 525 degrees and no more.  On both cooks I had the bottom vent wide open and the daisy wheel wide open.  My question is this - should I just dump in a ton of charcoal and try to control the heat by adjusting the vents or is there a magical amount of charcoal that I just have not discovered yet.  Also, I am using a new bag of BGE brand lump charcoal.  

 

Dump in a ton of charcoal and control the heat with the vents!

 

Kamados (like wood stoves) are designed to be draft limited.  The heat/temperature is controlled by the amount of oxygen that is available for combustion. 

As you get more experience with your specific kamado, you will learn what vent positions produce a particular temperature.  Avoid "chasing" the temperature by constantly readjusting the vents.  The Kamado has a long time delay between adjustment and resulting stable temperature.  Just set it and see were it ends up.  The bottom vent controls the general temperature range (e.g. +/- 100 degrees) and the top vent fine tunes it (+/- 25 degrees).  The reason that you need to control the bottom vent is that when you open the lid, the top vent no longer limits the air flow.  Start on the low side since it is much easier to increase the temperature than to reduce it due to the thermal inertia (heat holding capacity) of the ceramics.

 

When you are done with the cook, close the vents to put out the fire.  Any remaining, unused charcoal will be used in the next cook (along with added new charcoal).

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As above, always, always use a full filling of lump charcoal. On a BGE, I fill to just above the small circular air intake holes in the firebox. Fresh lump is always best, but I, and many others, just snuff out the fire buy closing both top and bottom vents when we are through cooking. When you are ready for your next cook, stir the used lump a bit and add fresh lump on top of the old. Again to just at or above the air intake holes. I have no problem getting my BGE dome temp up past 700 degrees when using fresh lump, and a little less when I have a combination of both old and new.

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As was stated above, you should always begin every single cook with a full load of lump. Lump is reusable.

Look, this is very easy to understand. When you add gasoline to your auto, do you only buy enough to get you from the house and the store and then back? You're saying that just nonsense, right? You fill the tank, right! Well do the same dadgummed thing with your BGE! Just as with your car, having a full tank of gasoline (lump) doesn't mean your auto does 100 mph on every residential street until you burn off half the tank and then your auto only goes 50, right? You use the controls that came with your automobile, accelerator, brakes, and transmission to control your auto's speed.

Look, I don't mean to be demeaning here or to make you feel small. You got some very bad advice from someone who knew absolutely nothing, zero, zip, zilch, nada about kamado cooking. They didn't know their ### from up. Temps are controlled by the vent system on your BGE, not by the weight of lump in your firebox!

The very best thing you can do is get to know your BGE by burning some lump. You need to know what vent setting yield which temps and the sooner you do, the more you will enjoy the best food you've ever eaten.

Understand that the bottom vent is for setting the general temp range you want to cook in, i.e. 200-300, 300-400, 400-500, etc. and the top vent is for dialing in the exact temp you want, i.e. 225, 275, 350, etc. It's just that simple. You need to fill your fire bowl completely with lump and light a single spot in the middle of your lump pile. Don't use a chimney, just light the lump in the lump pile. There are various ways to light your fire. Some use fire starters, some use cotton balls soaked with 91% isopropyl alcohol, some cooking oil soaked paper towels, some, like me use a MAPP torch. Just light a single spot. Leave the lid open until the fire is established.

You need to be able to hit following common cooking temps: 225, 250, 275, 300, 325, 350, 375, 400, 450, 475, and 500. Take notes as to the vent settings that give you each of the temps mentioned. Those settings will never change for your BGE. They are constants.

Let your BGE dwell at each temp for 30 minutes so that you know you've successfully hit the temp. Also understand that once you miss a temp on the high side you're kind of screwed … because of all that thermal mass, ceramic kamados don't bleed heat very well. So until you get a real feel for the response curve of your BGE, take things slowly. At the end of your temp/vent setting experiment, sear off a couple of steaks and enjoy!

I wish you well. The complete "recipe" for how to get to know which vent setting yields which temp is in the archives. I've posted it many times. Why it's not a sticky I don't know; it needs to be. Just use the search function to find it in my posts and you'll be fine.

Enjoy your BGE. It's a very fine cooker. I'm an old Egger myself. Welcome to Kamado Guru and welcome to kamado cooking!

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When you add gasoline to your auto, do you only buy enough to get you from the house and the store and then back? You're saying that just nonsense, right? You fill the tank, right! Well do the same dadgummed thing with your BGE! Just as with your car, having a full tank of gasoline (lump) doesn't mean your auto does 100 mph on every residential street until you burn off half the tank and then your auto only goes 50, right? You use the controls that came with your automobile, accelerator, brakes, and transmission to control your auto's speed.

 

 

Best analogy of how to run a Kamado I've seen yet. 

 

Two thumbs up on this advice...

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Always use a full bowl of lump. Mostly because you don't want to run out...the hotter the fire the more fuel you'll use, and there is nothing worse than losing heat before that last pie gets on...been there, it sucks! Anything unused is reusable so you have nothing to lose by not filling it up.

Also, remember, greater airflow will feed the fire and get it hotter. No need to be too fussy but make sure the holes are accessible and not plugged. I usually use large pieces of lump at the bottom of the bowl and the smaller pieces on top, that helps creat gaps that increase air flow and therefore help the fire get hotter. Just my way that works for me!

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I had the same issue when i first got my KJ.  All the advice above is spot on.  Additionally and generally speaking, the lump the second or third or fourth time around won't get as hot as a fresh set of lump.  If you're trying to do a high heat cook don't just go with reused lump, make sure there is some fresh lump in the box.  It was said earlier but if you continually keep a full firebox, you'll have fresh lump in the egg at all times.

 

Keep trying, it'll happen!

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I did the same exact thing when I got my first kamado...didn't put enough charcoal, and like they said, you can always reuse the leftover lump.  Agreed with adding some fresh lump each time.  Just don't forget to clean out your ash for long cooks as it can block airflow. 

 

Compared to using my weber before, it couldn't be simpler starting your fire by filling it with lump, lighting it(with your choice of starter square/cubes, torch, cotton ball...etc) so no chimney to mess with. 

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Yes total agree with comments above. The size of your fire and the temp of your kettle is determined by how much air you feed the fire not how much lump you have in the fire box. I cook on a Large BGE. Here are some pics of my filled fire box  from a variety of cooks from low and slow to high heat. As you can see the fire box is completely filled to the top for each cook regardless of type. For Pizza and other high heat cooks I always use fresh lump with out any second burn lump left over from previous cooks. 

 

post-3401-0-00569000-1463333766_thumb.jp

 

post-3401-0-54959100-1463333731_thumb.jp

 

post-3401-0-16112600-1463333798_thumb.jp

 

Happy cooking, enjoy your Egg, I totally love mine. 

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A couple factors to condider not being able to get egg past those temps you are mentioning is a buildup of ash and that will limit air flow the holes in fire box might be pluged up u need to clear them

How is your seal if its broken down you will also experience those temps you mentioned

as was mentioned you need to get to know your grill

Good luck with it i love my bge

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Thanks so much for all the great advice!  You are all very helpful and very knowledgeable.  I did fill the firebox and had no issues getting the fire hot.  It worked great!  The wife and I are enjoying this so much we are already talking about building a table set up for the egg.  Along with the egg came a bunch of accessories and now we need somewhere to store them so the table sounds like a good idea.  

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Good for you, Enjoy your Egg. A neat and cheep trick to organize your gear is to take a cheap or old rib rack and turn it sideways and lay it on the bottom of your cabinet.  It will keep your grates and stones separated and standing up right and give you quick access to everything you may need for a particular cook. Here are a few pics of my set up. 

 

post-3401-0-06428500-1463520925_thumb.jp

 

post-3401-0-48743100-1463520959_thumb.jp

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Good for you, Enjoy your Egg. A neat and cheep trick to organize your gear is to take a cheap or old rib rack and turn it sideways,  lay it on the bottom of your cabinet.  It will keep your grates and stones separated and standing up right and give you quick access to everything you may need for a particular cook. Here are a few pics of my set up. 

 

attachicon.gifDSC_2475.JPG

 

attachicon.gifDSC_2476.JPG

 

Genius!

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